Military Photo Resources: Usenet
Part of the vast array of mothballed aircraft at the Aerospace Maintenance and Recovery Center (AMARC), Davis Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ. Military photo from Usenet accessed via Easynews.com .
What is Usenet?
Usenet is a vast Internet bulletin board, divided into "news groups," that began in 1979 at Duke University when the Internet was still a new idea with few users. Each news group represents one topic of interest. For example, there is a news group named "alt.binaries.pictures.military" that focuses on military photos and movie clips. Although Usenet was originally all text material, there are now thousands of news groups with photos, music and videos of all types representing the full range of people's interests. A number of the newsgroups are on military subjects, both historical and present day. Although the name implies something about "news" the newsgroups deliver gossip, rumors, technical info, advice, social networking, and all types of music and visual content much more frequently than news.
The Usenet is a volunteer community. That is to say, people make personal decisions about what to post on Usenet and others decide what to download from the vast number of postings. You do not have to post anything if you don't want. Many thousands of people are adding content daily and millions are downloading. You can download with complete anonymity -- the person who posted the item does not know who is downloading it unless you choose to post your own comments. There is no central "Usenet HQ" -- it is a distributed system of servers like other Internet services.
Using Usenet for Free
M38A1 jeeps at 2004 Camp Jeep Europe. Military photo from Usenet accessed via Easynews.com .
Good news! Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide at least some access to Usenet as part of your service package. Just like you get access to email through the ISP you also get access to Usenet. To use Usenet, you need software called a "newsreader" just like you need an "email client" to read email. More good news! Most of the major email client software includes a newsreader (eg, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, and so forth).
To get started you only have to do a few easy things:
- Get the name of your Usenet service from the ISP. This is normally part of your setup information but if you can't find it, try the ISP's web site or tech support.
- Configure your newsreader to point to the ISP Usenet service, using the information from your ISP.
- Select the newsgroups you want to monitor. If you don't know any newsgroups there are search capabilities to help find things to get you started. For example, I put "jeep" into the newsreader search and found dozens of photos including the one at the start of this section.
In addition to following newsgroups, you can just search for content matching your interests. Usenet access is easier -- especially for long articles, multi-part content like video or large images -- if you use the NZB capability of Usenet search engines and an up-to-date newsreader. You create an NZB (an XML-based file format) by using a Usenet NZB search engine (Binsearch.info for example) to select the material you want to download. Your newsreader is then guided by the NZB content to download and display your selection with no fuss.
Get More out of Usenet
You may be completely happy with the free services described above or you may want more. For example, the free Usenet accounts are often limited. Or, perhaps they don't have very many of the newsgroups, they may censor content, they may not allow photos and other attachments, and they may not hold onto the material for very long. There are reasons for these limitations:
- Photos/video use a lot of storage and consume a lot of network bandwith to transfer
- The longer messages are held (the "retention") the bigger the storage requirement. Usenet in total has an immense daily load
- People browsing through Usenet and downloading things puts a big load on the ISPs servers
For these reasons, many ISPs have put severe limits on their free Usenet or eliminated Usenet altogether. Specialized Usenet providers have come into the market to fill the gap. For a small monthly fee, you can connect to their servers where they provide many more newsgroups, allow multimedia attachments, and can handle the server and bandwidth loads of large numbers of users.
For example, after much experimentation with various services, Olive-Drab.com has switched to Easynews.com for Usenet access. Easynews.com is a fast and reliable service, with industry leading retention of over 100,000 newsgroups. They are compatible with all Usenet newsreaders. They offer a no-obligation free trial so you can see for yourself. If you decide to use their service, they have monthly and annual plans to fit your needs.
Disclosure: Olive-Drab.com LLC may receive a commission if a paid Usenet subscription originates from Olive-Drab.com.
Other Ways to Access Usenet
Google has created a free Usenet service called Google Groups. Google Groups contains the world's most comprehensive archive of postings to Usenet, dating back to 1981. You can join any current group of create a new one for your own purposes. Google Groups eliminates the need for newsreading software and lets you use Google to search the archive. However, there are no images on Google Groups, only text.
Here are some Google Groups examples:
Other free but limited services built around Usenet are offered by many companies. For example, Microsoft hosts Usenet groups that provide support for Microsoft products, accessible through Microsoft's web site.
Usenet Newsreader Software
The newsreader in your mail client may or may not be everything you want. For example, very large files (especially video) are often broken up into multiple segments for Usenet posting. This avoids size limits imposed on messages by some services but it also creates a problem -- to see the video you have to reassemble the pieces. Modern newsreaders take care of this for you, automatically detecting all the parts, downloading them, and creating the final video file ready to play.
Most newsreaders also manage the newsgroups you have a steady interest in, keeping track of what you have already downloaded, automatically fetching new messages according to filters you set up, and many more nice housekeeping tasks. The newsreaders in Outlook and other standard software do these things too, but usually less well than the specialized newsreaders.
Recommended: Xnews, a very popular, easy to use newsreader, available free from Download.com at the link as well as other sources. To make Xnews utilize NZB files, you will need the addon XNewsQueue.